Tag Archives: Elections

Electoral Results, As Anticipated

06/13/2015

By Veronica Ortiz O.

As we wrote here, the midterm election pointed out to some likely unexpected results. Those results finally materialized and provided interesting surprises.

Undoubtedly, the best news was the electoral turnout, despite the threats of violence, boycott, abstention and rallies for “ballot annulling”. With 47% of the voters list showing up, it was the busiest midterm election since 1997. At State level, turnout surpassed an astonishing 60% in Nuevo León. Clearly, people opted for a democratic way to reject violence and provocation.

Interestingly, the percentage of invalid ballots (4.78%) was smaller than in 2009 (5.3%) defeating the “anulista” movement call to waste the whole electoral process. And surprises went even farther:

  1. The victories of the “independent” candidates, or more accurately “no party candidates”. The cases of Pedro Kumamoto (local representative in Jalisco), Manuel Clouthier (Congressman from Sinaloa), César Valdez (mayor in Nuevo León), Alfonso Martínez (mayor in Michoacán) and the rising star Jaime Rodriguez Calderón, a.k.a “Bronco”, elected governor of prosperous northern State of Nuevo León.
  2. The punishment vote and alternation. Five states switched from political colors, as voters punished serious corruption allegations against PAN governor Guillermo Padrés of Sonora and PRI´s governor Rodrigo Medina in Nuevo León. Or as a reaction to blatant abandonment as was the case of PRD in Guerrero and PRI in Michoacán. Finally but on a separate file, the enigmatic loss of PRI´s highly rated administration of Gov. José Calzada in central State of Queretaro, probably due more to an unconvincing campaign by the official candidate or to the decision of a more sophisticated electorate.
  3. Mexico City entering the multi-party system, as voters chose to end18 years of left wing PRD hegemony in the federal district. The party will retain 6 of 16 “delegaciones” (municipalities), while newcomer Morena wins 5, PRI gets 3 and PAN 2. In local Congress elections, Lopez Obrador´s new party Morena gives an outstanding performance wresting the majority of seats forcing down the PRD to second place and right wing PAN to third.
  4. Nationwide, Morena enters the stage as the fourth political force, displacing the green party PVEM. Surely a strong platform for Lopez Obrador´s 2018 presidential ambitions, but that could also prove insufficient to the task.
  5. The three major parties end up losing votes (PRD in a lesser proportion, by the way) but keep the 2012 ranking in Congress, conveying an implicit endorsement to the Pacto por México.

As anticipated, PRI´s victory (along with its allies the Green Party PVEM and the Teachers´ Union Party PANAL) reversed the trend set by the three previous midterm elections where the ruling party lost majority in Congress.

What they make of this victory will give abundant material for further discussion.

* Lawyer and political analyst. Journalist in the newspaper El Economista and TV presenter in Canal del Congreso and AprendeTV in Mexico.

@veronicaortizo

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As Mexicans Buck Political Status Quo, Independent “El Bronco” Wins Election

By Duncan Wood and Pedro Valenzuela

Originally published in The Wilson Quarterly

A BREAK WITH TRADITION

As the votes from Sunday’s midterm elections were counted in Mexico, it was clear to everyone what the story of the campaigns would be. Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, better known as El Bronco (the rough one), is projected to be the clear winner in the Nuevo León gubernatorial election, more than doubling the vote received by each of his nearest rivals from the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and opposition Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) parties.

The truly remarkable thing about Calderón’s candidacy is not his margin of victory, but that he ran and won as an independent — this was the first time in Mexican history that such candidacies were possible. His victory marks a potential sea change in Mexican politics, with voters increasingly tired of the established parties and disillusioned with the traditional political elites.

The midterms were expected to change little at the national level, and at first glance that is what appears to have happened: the ruling PRI held on to its dominance of the federal congress, and there was only sporadic electoral violence in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Yet, a number of key stories emerged on Election Day that hint at significant trends in Mexican democracy.

First, the PRI only managed to hold onto its leading position by working closely with two other parties, the Verde (Green) and PANAL (a teachers’ union party). The PRI’s vote fell to around 29 percent, down from almost 32 percent support in the 2012 congressional elections. With the support of its allies, and the even more disappointing performance of the opposition PAN (21 percent) and PRD (10.6 percent), it will be able to maintain its majority in congress.

Second, there was a high turnout, indicating that the Mexican public was indeed motivated to participate and that the parties were anxious to get as many supporters as possible to the polls.

Third, the left is more divided than ever — the well-established PRD was almost matched in the polls by the breakaway Morena party, run by former PRD leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador. When the votes for the leftwing parties (PRD,Morena, Movimiento Ciudadana, PT) are added together, their total comes to almost the exact same number as the PRI’s.

Fourth, there appears to have been a very high number of spoiled ballots (voto nulo) — almost five percent of the total number of votes cast. This points to a worrying trend towards electoral disenchantment, a tendency borne out by polling data on Mexican skepticism about democracy in recent years.

But the story of the election is clearly El Bronco. The independent candidate for the governorship of Nuevo León, a wealthy northern border state and one of the country’s industrial engines. In his victory, Rodríguez broke the mold of Mexican elections by proving that success can come from outside of the established party system. As an independent, Rodríguez was one of fifty candidates nationwide running without party affiliation — in this, the first election in Mexican history where independents were allowed to run for office.

The national and international media attention El Bronco attracted virtually guaranteed that even if he did not win the governorship, many more independent candidates would come forward in forthcoming elections, including the 2018 presidential contest. Mexicans’ growing disillusionment with traditional party politics and the established modes of democracy in their country may just see an outlet in the prospect of candidates who have broken free from the dominant party paradigm.

LONE RANGER OR PROFESSIONAL POLITICIAN?

“I’m not saying I am Superman, but I could be the Lone Ranger.” El Bronco used this phrase repeatedly during the race, and it served him well. Voters clearly identified with his outsider status, and he appears to have won 49 percent of the vote in Nuevo León, compared with 23 percent each for the PRI and PAN candidates.

Of the 50 independents running in this election, only one other candidate won election, and this is no accident. Current electoral rules make it difficult for independents to compete with candidates from Mexico’s well-established political parties. Though independent candidates are allowed to have access to promotion on radio and television, candidates from political parties receive much more airtime. Campaign funding — which in Mexico has traditionally been entirely public — is more uneven still: independents receive less than one percent the amount the public funding received by their competitors from established political parties.

Though independent candidates can receive private funding, the rules governing this have not been clearly delimited by the authorities. Nor is there clarity on the rules governing independents’ campaign spending. In El Bronco’s race, local authorities declared that the amount of private funds that a candidate can use cannot exceed 10 percent of total campaign expenses. In theory, these rules apply to candidates who receive public money through political parties. If they were applied to El Bronco, it would jeopardize his position because he received the equivalent of $23,000 in public financing — compared to the nearly $3 million that his competitors received just through their political parties. This legal uncertainty raises the prospect of postelectoral instability, challenges, and conflict.

Despite these challenges, El Bronco led the polls in Nuevo León for the past three months, jumping nearly 16 points since March. He received a further boost when, a few weeks ago, Fernando Elizondo, a former interim governor and senator, dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Rodríguez.

Rodríguez’s performance is partly a testament to his considerable political savvy and experience, and partly a reflection of his roots in local and sectoral politics. He is originally from Pablillo, a small town in central Nuevo León with fewer than one thousand inhabitants. As a young agricultural engineering student, Rodríguez fought against increases in public transportation fares and later became the leader of the National Agricultural Confederation in Nuevo León. For that post, he responded to an opponent’s complaints that he wore “exotic leather boots and jeans purchased in the United States” with a speech that rallied farmers to “stop thinking squat, and instead think big,” inviting them to dream of better boots, better tractors, and better incomes. These battles honed his campaign skills and furthered his image as a charismatic, nontraditional politico.

In 2009, after climbing the political ladder to become a federal and local deputy, Rodríguez won election as mayor of García, a municipality with a population of around 145,000 that is part of the metropolitan area of Monterrey, Nuevo León’s capital. Here, he earned a reputation as a strong and determined character.

His government philosophy is called the “García model,” and focuses on three policy areas: security, education, and labor. He considers the participation of government, citizens, and businesses to be fundamental to good governance. To facilitate this as mayor, he used unconventional methods — publishing his private telephone number so he could receive requests directly from the citizenry, or registering complaints and requests through his Facebook page.

At that time, he realized that security was the number one concern of the electorate, so as a first step, he launched a strategy to take back some public spaces that had been claimed by criminals. More dramatically, he dismissed all of the municipal police in García. Those actions won him public trust, but also made him a target of organized crime groups, who kidnapped his two-year-old daughter, murdered one of his older sons, killed his city’s public security minister in the municipality, and tried twice to assassinate him.

As insecurity and violence decreased in Nuevo León, his popularity transcended his term in office and the figure of El Bronco became known in the state and nationwide, with songs and even a film, Un Bronco Sin Miedo (A fearless Bronco), inspired by his story.

In September 2014, Rodríguez decided to give up his membership to the PRI because he foresaw difficulties in obtaining the nomination to run for governor. In his resignation letter, he expressed the ideas that became the banners of his campaign for governor: political parties are no longer responsive to citizens’ demands, and the community is angry and tired of corrupt politicians.

Relying heavily on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube as means to promote himself, he obtained registration as gubernatorial candidate. El Broncoran his campaign based on the strength of his personality and charisma. Through informal and often obscenity-laced speeches, he increased his popular support, promising to always speak the truth to citizens, and insisting that with courage and strategy, an effective and lasting security strategy can be built.

THE MEANING OF EL BRONCO

Doubts remain as to the nature of the governor-elect. Is he truly independent, breaking away from the established model, or should we instead see him as a former party man who is first and foremost an opportunist and professional politician, someone who has seen the writing on the wall and is willing to do what it takes to win office?

No matter what kind of governor El Bronco turns out to be, the rise of independent candidates should be read as a call for political parties to increase internal competition and improve the quality of their candidates. Parties clearly need to recapture the allegiance of the growing number of Mexicans who have lost faith in the established model. At the same time, civil society movements such as the 3de3 initiative (which calls on candidates to make a full disclosure of their business and financial interests) are raising public awareness about the issues of corruption and conflict of interest. Latinobarómetro polls consistently place Mexico at or near the bottom of the Latin American region in terms of citizen satisfaction with democracy.

Whatever the more generalized implications of this for elections, El Bronco’s particular style of governing will be difficult to repeat at the gubernatorial level, and he will have to find new ways to face the challenges to come. Nonetheless, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón has bucked the status quo and emerged as the most compelling character of Mexico’s 2015 midterms.

More intriguingly, as Luis Carlos Ugalde, former president of the electoral body in Mexico, recently said in an event at the Wilson Center, we cannot rule out the possibility that an independent candidate could run for president in 2018; while he or she will not likely have the strength to emerge victorious, they might win enough votes to tip the balance.

The rise of El Bronco is emblematic of the rising disenchantment on the part of the Mexican electorate with the country’s political parties, and will likely prove to be a disruptive factor in national politics for years to come.

* * *

Duncan Wood is the director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center. Follow him on Twitter at @AztecDuncanPedro Valenzuela is a consultant with the Mexico Institute.

A Fragmented Political Landscape

Andrew SeleeBy Andrew Selee

It’s too early to know the full impact of yesterday’s elections in Mexico, but there is no question that these were far more momentous than midterm elections usually are, with profound short-term and long-term consequences for the future of Mexico’s political system.  Here are four quick takeaways on the implications of the results:

* The political landscape in Mexico is now more fragmented than ever before with no single party towering over the others.  Mexico has long been a political system based on three strong parties and a few smaller ones.  Now there are at least five, if not more, that appear to have a significant base of support.  The victory of an independent candidate in Nuevo Leon, Mexico’s most economically important state, sets a very important precedent that will decentralize the political system even more in the future and allow citizens to organize outside the traditional parties.

* It was a mixed night for President Enrique Pena Nieto and the PRI.  Although the PRI appears to have won the largest number of votes for Congress and state governors, the party won less than 30 percent of the vote, appears to have lost a few crucial governors’ races that it had expected to win (Nuevo Leon, Queretaro, and Michoacan), and will have to piece together a working majority in the Congress with the Green Party, the New Alliance Party, and perhaps a few others on key votes.  Of course, it’s not unusual for the incumbent party to lose ground in the midterm elections (this is the fourth straight time it’s happened), but the PRI seemed to be in a particularly strong position going into this election and expected to do much better.  This election is hardly a repudiation of Pena Nieto’s government — which will likely be able to move forward with its reform agenda in Congress — but it’s certainly not a ringing endorsement either.

* The PAN came in as the second strongest party, though it received only a fifth of the votes, and the left divided like never before among various parties.  Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s party, Morena, made a very respectable showing against the PRD, probably winning five of Mexico City’s delegations (municipalities) and presenting a strong challenge to the PRD in the bastion of the left.

* The elections were actually carried out in relative peace, despite attempts to disrupt them in three states in the south.  However, an unusually high number of voters (roughly five percent) appear to have left their ballots blank in protest against all of the political parties.

In the next few hours, we will know more about how the main parties ended up and who will govern each state, but clearly this is an election that has shaken the foundations of Mexico’s political system like few others.

Andrew Selee is the Executive Vice President of the Wilson Center and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute.

ELECTION MONITOR 06.04.15

By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero

Gubernatorial Debates

Since a little over 20 years ago, holding debates between candidates has become common in the Mexican political environment. Naturally, the first efforts were made during presidential campaigns. In fact, the first presidential debate was held during the 1994 elections. However, from that moment on, gubernatorial debates have been also increasingly common. The first public and broadcasted debate of this type was in 1997, during the first campaign to elect the Mayor of Mexico City. Debates have been driven either by electoral authorities or by media outlets. In this context, during the campaigns that today come to an end, there have been debates among the candidates for most of the 2015 gubernatorial elections.

Nuevo León, one of the most important states whose gubernatorial election became more competitive as campaigns advances, had 5 debates. One organized by electoral authorities, one more organized by the Civic Council Citizen through its platform Nuevo León ¿Cómo Vamos? two organized by universities (the University of Monterrey and Universidad Regiomontana) and the other one organized by El Norte, a leading newspaper from Grupo Reforma. Some have been summoned all candidates and in others only the pointers in the polls.

In all debates, each of the candidates has established his or her priorities and government plans in case of winning. The most recurrent themes were corruption and transparency, security, urban planning, and social and economic development. As a symbol of a closed competition, the meetings have not been free of attacks and insults among candidates.

Nuevo León debate organized by Nuevo León ¿Cómo Vamos? (in Spanish)

Nuevo León debate organized by the University of Monterrey (in Spanish)

Nuevo León debate organized by electoral authorities (in Spanish)

Nuevo León debate organized by El Norte (in Spanish)

In Michoacán, electoral authorities organized two debates. All the candidates were invited. Given the latest developments in the state, it was no surprise that much of the discussion centered on proposals and recriminations on the subject of security.

Michoacán first debate (in Spanish)

In Guerrero, state electoral authorities hosted a debate among all candidates for the governorship. As in the case of Michoacán, security was a recurring issue in all of the speeches and proposals. The candidates also addressed issues of poverty, tourism, public health, and social development.

Guerrero first debate (in Spanish)

Other entities such as Sonora, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Baja California Sur, and Campeche also carried out one or two debates among candidates. In most states, there were other spaces where candidates contrast their proposals.

Querétaro first debate (in Spanish)

Sonora first debate (in Spanish)

Undoubtedly, the debates are important to the electorate, as they are spaces in which the contrast of ideas and positions is clearer than in speeches and/or political rallies. Of course, these kind of democratic exercises also serve to discredit and attack the opponents, which is also a good sign of democracy, as the political act is not without the clash of ideas. It is positive that debates in Mexico are becoming more common and that the both citizens and the media see these spaces as the right place to bounce ideas among the various candidates. Hopefully, these exercises will also help to increase citizen participation in the elections next Sunday.

 

 

The anticipated results

Verónica OrtizBy Verónica Ortiz O.*

As we draw closer to June 7th, it appears that the upcoming election anticipates some likely unexpected results.

We´re actually seeing two kinds of elections, following their own electoral dynamic. At the State level, the local economic and political conditions, the popularity of the outgoing governor as well as the personality of the candidates campaigning for office weigh in the voters´ decision process. Hence the volatility of the possible results, to close to call by now at least in 7 out of the 9 States in dispute.

The federal election to renew the House is a whole different story, in which the parties brand names weigh more than individual trajectories. And contrary to the general belief, public polls are consistently showing a distribution of seats in the lower Chamber similar to the present one, except for the fragmentation of the left caused by Morena´s irruption in the political scene. Some exercises even foresee more seats for the PRI and its allies in Congress, the PVEM and PANAL (they currently hold 251 out of 500 seats).

Should this be the case, the PRI vote could be interpreted in two ways: firstly fueled by some signals of slow economic recovery (reported lower unemployment and better retail figures) and expectation around the benefits of the structural reforms (i.e. savings in electricity bills). Secondly, an inertial vote assuming a growing disenchantment with politicians and political parties, but also with the lack of promising alternatives.

On top of those arguments, a divided opposition always proves helpful. The right wing PAN is in turmoil, with national leader Madero fighting former President Calderón over control of the party. The leftist parties on the other hand are paving the way for the PRI thanks in good part to López Obrador´s rupture with the PRD.

Interestingly, the likely success of the PRI would reverse the fate of the last three midterm elections where the governing party (be it PRI or PAN) lost the majority in Congress. However, cautiousness is highly recommended. The PRI and its allies would be very mistaken to take an electoral triumph for granted. Specially when so many challenges lie ahead.

They will have to manage expectations for starters. The implementation of the structural reforms is a lengthy, grueling process which will require a strong political will and an even stronger convening power, similar to the one behind the Pacto por México, to stay the course.

Most importantly, it would be a huge mistake to minimize the popular rejection towards systemic corruption. The enactment of the Anticorruption bill last week was an undisputed achievement of the organized civil society that will have to be matched with a genuine commitment of the authorities to comply with and enforce the law. Nothing shorter than that will restore their tarnished credibility.

It might prove worthy recalling that the last time the PRI won a midterm election was 1991 with then President Carlos Salinas. Needless to say, despite that electoral victory things didn´t work out well in the end.

* Lawyer and political analyst. Journalist in the newspaper El Economista and TV presenter in Canal del Congreso and AprendeTV in Mexico.

@veronicaortizo

The electoral battle for Mexico City

By Pedro Valenzuela Parcero

Mexico City is home to more than 9 million people. However, the daily metropolitan area movements reach 29 million people. In addition to this, the city is the seat to the three branches, as well as very prominent private companies. Therefore, population density and political resonance are some conditions that make Mexico City politically attractive. In fact, governing the city can boost political aspirations of the mayors. This has occurred since 1997, when the inhabitants of Mexico City had the opportunity for the first time to choose their authorities – before this, both the delegation chiefs (figure similar to the municipalities) and the Mayor were elected by the President. This was true with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the first Mayor of Mexico City and former presidential candidate in 2000 for the third time; with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, former presidential candidate in 2006 and in 2012; and with Marcelo Ebrard, who ran to be the presidential candidate in 2012, but lost against López Obrador in the primary elections.

While the contemporary history of Mexico City should be told predominantly from the left, as it has been the bastion of these political forces for 18 years, the fragmentation of the left parties and the growing competition from traditional parties, such as the PRI and the PAN, make this 2015 election crucial to determine the political future of the capital. Here, we present an analysis of the conditions at play and some of its most important players.

While previous mayors, like the current mayor Miguel Mancera, were chosen by alliances led by the PRD, the story today is very different. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the historic leader of the party, resigned his membership this year. Andrés Manuel López Obrador is currently the main leader of the new party MORENA, which encompasses, among other characters, former close aides who worked with him during his term in Mexico City’s office. Marcelo Ebrard sought a place as Federal Deputy in these elections but by Citizens’ Movement (MC), a previously close ally of the PRD. In fact, electoral authorities determined his ineligibility for quitting the PRD just before enrolling in the other party. Thus, the division of the left becomes more evident in Mexico City leadership.

The bottom line is that the competition between the PRD and MORENA will potentially be close in some areas of the city. Most of the PRD candidates have been chosen from local leaderships and closeness to Miguel Mancera’s administration and PRD national leadership. On the other hand, MORENA candidates are basically national-level figures, such as former state governors and people close to the López Obrador political group. Thus, although the PRD currently governs 14 of the 16 delegations (see map), it is expected to have strong competition in very important places such as Iztapalapa and Cuauhtémoc.

Historically, the PAN and the PRI have had little presence in Mexico City. The PAN currently rules the Benito Juárez delegation, which has been its political bastion in the city for the last several years, and the PRI rules the Cuajimalpa delegation. In the case of the PAN, some important figures are also competing for delegations such as Miguel Hidalgo, and the party aspires to govern more delegations as they did in the midterm elections of 2009 (see map). For its part, the PRI Cuajimalpa aspires to preserve and perhaps strengthen its presence in other areas of the capital. Just a couple of weeks ago, Cuajimalpa recorded a violent confrontation between supporters of the PRI and PRD, which ended with a non-aggression pact between state party leaders.

Slide1

In summary, these 2015 elections for Mexico City will measure the strength of different leaderships and parties on the left that will lay out the competition towards the 2018 Presidential Election. At the same time, electoral competition between the PRD and MORENA will be close in some areas of the capital.This is especially important as this is the first election for the latter party. Finally, this increasing competition and its immediate consequence of split voting could help the PRI and the PAN to gain positions. Finally, this electoral battle in Mexico City comes at a crucial time when Congress is discussing the creation of a new Constituent Congress to give Mexico City a constitution and character as a federal entity, which would affect the checks and balances that the city has historically had (see our latest Op-Ed on the topic).

Visit here for more information on this election.
Visit here for information regarding political parties in Mexico.

Violence grips Mexico ahead of midterm elections

By Renee Lewis in Aljazeera America 05/21/15

A wave of violence and intimidation has engulfed Mexico in recent weeks as the country prepares for midterm elections on June 7, with gunmen killing four candidates and kidnapping dozens of residents in Guerrero state — reviving fears that the still-unsolved disappearance of 43 students last September was not an isolated incident.

Enrique Hernández, who was running for mayor of Yurécuaro in the western state of Michoacán for the left-leaning Movement for National Regeneration Party, was killed on May 14 when gunmen opened fire on his campaign rally. Hernández was a leader of the town’s self-defense group formed in 2013 to curb the power of the Knights Templar cartel.

The state’s attorney general, José Martín Godoy Castro, said Wednesday that the Yurécuaro’s police chief and two of his aids knew about plans to kill Hernández, and left town ahead of the murder. Godoy said he would file charges — of participation through omission in a homicide — against the three officers.

Less than an hour after Hernández’s murder, gunmen shot Héctor López Cruz 16 times as he returned from campaigning in Huimanguillo, in the southeastern state of Tabasco. López was running for city council of Huimanguillo on the ticket of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

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